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Fri Aug 22 07:32:33 MDT 2003
NY Times, August 22, 2003
MOVIE REVIEW | 'DOG DAYS'
Lives Can Come Unglued in Tropical Vienna (Vienna?)
By ELVIS MITCHELL
"Dog Days" was shown as part of this year's New Directors/New Films
series. Following are excerpts from Elvis Mitchell's review, which
appeared in The New York Times on April 1. The film, in German with
English subtitles, opens today in Manhattan.
The director Ulrich Seidl's "Dog Days," which takes place during the
miserably hot summer in Vienna, is a roiling mix of anger, resentment
and need: the often destructive power of love. We see this in the first
sequence, when the belligerently jealous Mario (René Wanko) threatens
the guys who look at his girlfriend, Klaudia (Franziska Weiss); he seems
to leave pools of testosterone wherever he steps.
After he forces her unwanted suitors away and floors his car through the
streets of Vienna, he screams at Klaudia and throws her out of the car.
We then get the credit sequence, with several groups of people shown
sunning themselves under the piercing sun; the pictures could be a
melting mess bringing together Francis Bacon and David Hockney.
With these shots of the pale cast of characters, we can almost feel the
melanoma developing. Mr. Seidl treats the chemistry of human
relationships like a cancer, an enormous growth that, unchecked, leads
As I sat watching Ulrich Seidl's "Dog Days," I was reminded of the
affluent but unhappy northern Europe shown in such films as "The New
Country," whose point of view is that of the newly arrived and desperate
third world immigrant. Unlike "The New Country," also shown at New
Directors/New Film Festival 2002, there are no immigrants in this
film--just tortured locals whose material possessions cannot satisfy a
hunger of the heart. At the conclusion of this review, I will reveal why
my impressions were not accidental.
Set in the suburbs of Vienna, the camera reveals a middle-class
capitalist utopia. As late-model cars drive back and forth, we see an
endless procession of shopping malls with well-stocked chain stores.
Serving as a kind of Greek chorus, a mentally unbalanced hitchhiker
pesters each driver with a series of quizzes about this brave new world.
What are the ten most admired department stores? Before they can answer,
she rattles them off. Who are the ten sexiest on-air television
hostesses? Again, she has the answer. She teaches one driver the words
to an advertising jingle for soap. Before long, the driver and the
audience realize that she is not only a victim of obsessional thinking,
but of the late capitalist variety.
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